“There’s No Way!” – an extended look at Halloween Resurrection (2002)

hallres4

SPOILERS AHOY – I think I’ve earned them through the eight films of this series. So if you’ve avoided watching this – congratulations! I hope you use those extra 2 hours effectively.

So we come to the end of “classic” Michael Myers. After faking her own death, running away to California, starting a family and being a decent member of society, the only reward Laurie Strode gets is to be locked up in an asylum because she killed the wrong person at the end of “H20”.

Wait, what? We saw the end of H20, and what we got was Michael sitting up in the coroner’s van, getting thrown through the windscreen, then standing up, then taking a van to the chest, then falling halfway down a ravine before having that same van smash into him and pin him to a tree…and he was still alive after all of it. Michael I can accept that happening to, but just some guy? Turns out he swapped out his outfit for a security guard’s, using his magnificent precognitive powers to predict how it would all turn out. We’re lucky, I suppose, that the guy didn’t wake up ten seconds earlier, tear his mask off and leave a completely exposed Michael Myers in the middle of a bunch of people with guns. He’s also been portrayed many times as having a mortal fear of removing his mask, so it’s lucky he can get over that when plot contrivance demands it.

My wife’s response to this? “Eh, they’ve carried on horror franchises for stupider reasons”.

Michael decides to wait 3 years before going after Laurie again, perhaps because that’s how long it took for this film to get funding, perhaps because he needed a replacement mask for the one he left on that security guard, then shockingly easily murders his way through a heavily secured psychiatric hospital to get to her. If you wanted a sign of how little this movie cares about being even slightly good, we see two nurses talking about Laurie, then as they approach her room old nurse tells young nurse to not let on that she knows anything. As soon as they’re in the room, old nurse just carries on telling the same story to young nurse! Did you even read your own damn script? Anyway, when Michael gets to Laurie, she puts up a hell of a fight but is let down by her own unwillingness to chop up a masked man again and plunges to her “death” (although you know if this film had been anything other than an unmitigated failure, she’d have been revived in some way for the sequel). All the other people who survived the end of “H20”, one of whom was a blood relative (Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams and LL Cool J) must have died on the way back to their home planet, because they’re never so much as mentioned.

That’s it. The final, titanic battle between Laurie and Michael, ranging over four films, is finished with 15 minutes into “Resurrection”, and Laurie joins Rachel from part 5 and Jamie from part 6 as stars of the previous film who died a short way into the current one. Boy, I sure hope they picked a big, worthwhile, not embarrassingly stupid way to finally do for Michael!

halloween_resurrection_2002_580x433_892931

You may wonder why I called this review “There’s no way”. It’s not because Michael is indestructible, that’s a given. It’s the way the pieces continually fall into place to make it easy for Michael to carry on doing what he’s doing, as he gets every possible lucky break and has powers of forward planning that we mere mortals could only dream of. When he leaves the asylum, he hands over his knife to one of the other inmates, a guy who happened to both keep getting out of his locked cell, and be a clown-mask-wearing serial killer superfan, presumably pinning all the murders on him. There’s no way! You’ll need that phrase a lot if you’re going to watch this. We see Michael on security camera, and you’d think that the authorities would probably check the video to see what happened, and see a much taller man in a different mask killing everyone. But no! Why bother?

But I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time on the first 15 minutes. The majority of the film is based around an idea that’s not so much stupid (merely a weak rehash of “Blair Witch 2”) as 100% guaranteed to have been stopped by some legal person long before it ever happened. A company called Dangertainment has bought the Myers house, and on Halloween they’re sending in 6 college students with head-mounted cameras to behave like typical teenagers, as well as look for clues, and the results will be broadcast on the internet.

It’s so stupid that I can feel my brain trying to stop me writing this review and go and stare at a puddle, or something. How are Dangertainment making money from this? There’s no “$9.99 for full access” advert on the website. Why did the Myers family leave the house abandoned for so long only to sell it to an internet entrepreneur? Just for fun, think of any serial killer and see what happened to the house they were living in. There’s a better than 50% chance that the house will have been burned down by angry locals or demolished to make a garden; but luckily this house was left untouched and unused. Why have so few hard-mounted cameras? “Big Brother” had been on the air a few years by this point so they must have been aware of it – head mounted cameras mean you don’t get to see anyone’s reaction, as if something happens, everyone will be looking at the thing rather than the people.

The director makes a cameo around now, as the psychology professor of Final Girl Sara (Bianca Kajlich). Have you ever noticed how college lectures in movies are always directly related to the plot of the film, and are the most basic entry-level guff? But this barely cracks Halloween: Resurrection’s top 50 of idiocy.

We ought to spend a moment with Dangertainment before we get to the good stuff. Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks! To give two prominent roles to two complete non-actors is a weird move, but Tyra acquits herself just fine in her limited time on screen. Busta, on the other hand, has a fairly central role and is absolutely terrible, relying on comedy swearing almost every line. They have a grand total of 1 employee to help with this world-wide-streaming, rather large operation. There’s no way!

6000_3

6 college students, 1 house, lots of cameras, one serial killer. The house is full of stuff related to Myers, but in what might be generously called a clever move, every item is a plant, designed to frighten the students and excite the viewing public, as Busta learned his lesson from the opening of Al Capone’s vault. Michael shows up, because it turns out he’s been living in the sewers under the house for the last 20 years, and he starts doing what he does best. As everyone watching it assumes it’s fake, no-one calls the police or anything, because of course. It takes them quite a long time before they realise Myers is there…how big would a house have to be for you to completely lose someone, when you were searching the house top to bottom for evidence of them? About the size of a medium suburban home, is this film’s answer. There’s no way!

Despite its modern trappings (the internet!) this film feels horribly old-fashioned, much more so than “H20”, and the rules that “Scream” mocked so cleverly are stuck to rigidly – if you have sex or do drugs, you’re dead. Two of the three boys in this film behave like sexist assholes and are rewarded for it, while the women get nothing but killed. Katee Sackhof (Starbuck from the recent Battlestar Galactica) strips down to her bra at one point, while Daisy McCrackin was presumably paid a little extra to go topless, seconds before getting impaled on a sharp spike. Michael does love impaling people!

Sara, luckily, has a friend on the outside, a tech wizard nicknamed Deckard, actually a high school kid who’s pretending to be older. I presume some part at the end of their story was cut out, but the two of them never meet, with “Deckard” sending her text messages telling her where Michael is – he’s at a party but finds a computer there to watch the show. It’s not a terrible idea, but to have the two sides of the story never meet is kind-of weird.

Anyway, you know how these things go. Setting up the house with all the tricks and fakeouts, then making sure it all looked old and disused, must have been the work of an army of skilled builders, but their one and only employee is killed before the Dangertainment even starts, and no-one bothers looking for him or wondering where he’s gone. There’s no security in place, no health & safety and Michael still being alive isn’t a concern to anyone. Two of the students smoke a bong on camera and their almost certainly getting arrested and thrown out of college is not a concern to them. Busta dresses up like Michael to scare the kids, confronts the real Michael (sending him on his way with a flea in his ear) and continues the tradition of people dressed like Michael being directly responsible for death. There’s no way!

But all this is just window-dressing to the final battle. Most everyone is dead, and it’s down to Sara to try and escape the house, which is proving rather more difficult than you might expect. She’s about done for, when “TRICK OR TREAT, MOTHER****ER!” (swears might drop us down search result rankings?) Busta Rhymes was only stabbed in the shoulder, so he uses his kung-fu skills, which were established Chekhov’s Gun-style at the beginning, to kick Michael into some bare wires, electrocuting him to “death” – yes, his eyes open at the end, as always, but this film series is done.

So, after 25 years of running from her brother, who went from a force of pure evil to a sort of super-genius death-ninja, the grand conclusion to these films is not Laurie Strode finally confronting her brother, but Busta Rhymes quipping and kicking. Which is quite appropriate in a way, because this series has been coasting on one good film and an iconic mask for that entire time and has produced some of the worst stinkers of recent memory (3, 5 and 6 are almost unbearably bad), so to end it with a non-acting rapper giving a big dramatic speech to the assembled cameras about how, despite him being a scumbag for the film’s entire running time, he’s had a Damascene conversion to the cause of privacy and respect, is fairly reasonable.

I appreciate all this is plot-related mockery, because the technical side of the film is the fairly standard modern slick horror movie. Most of the stars are decent actors (Kajlich and Sackhof are both excellent) and the camerawork is workmanlike and uninteresting. The head-mounted cameras were a stupid decision for another reason than the one I mentioned above, and that’s that none of them can handle low-light situations, and most of the film is in low light. While Deckard and friends are watching the feed, you can barely see what’s going on. Oh, and Bianca Kajlich couldn’t scream at all, apparently, so had all hers dubbed. Huh.

halloween8_02

Part of the reason this film enjoys its thoroughly deserved poor reputation is down to its getting the future so completely wrong. “America hates reality”, goes Busta at one point, when a few years later there would be multiple channels devoted entirely to “reality” shows like this, and multiple shows devoted to very very similar topics. But most of the reason is because it’s wretched, a low point even in a series as bad as this one’s been. That this film was shelved to do reshoots because the producers wanted a stronger finished product makes me fascinated as to how bad the first cut of this film could have been.

Talking of behind the scenes stuff, the documentary about the series tells us that Miramax Films wanted no Michael Myers in this one, but producer Moustapha Akkad and “the fans” wanted and got him. If there’s one thing that this film has taught us, it’s don’t trust hardcore fans of anything. You don’t have to please them, because they’ll turn up anyway! The title was chosen to let fans know they were getting Michael, but if you think about it he never died at the end of the last one so just who is getting resurrected, I’m not sure.

If we make it to 2016 without another Halloween film (it looks like Rob Zombie’s series is dead, thanks to the critical and commercial disaster of his Halloween 2 in 2009) it’ll be the longest time without a new blast of Michael since the series started. And I think that’s for the best. Certainly, the cheap “he’s dead, whoops, no he’s not” endings to every Halloween film are no worse than the other big horror franchises, but they’re still pretty bad, and if this is all they can manage then no-one needs another.

I may review Rob Zombie’s two Halloweens at some point, even though I really don’t like the little of his other movies I’ve seen and think his music’s terrible. But this is the end for our journey through Halloween, and thanks for sticking with me. Which franchise to move onto next? Hellraiser? Friday the 13th? Child’s Play? A Nightmare on Elm Street? Critters? Leprechaun? Bloody hell, there’s a lot of them.

Rating: thumbs down

Advertisements

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

HalloweenH20poster

When you’re 7 films deep in a series, and know the bad guy is only dying if they stop making money, your mind has a tendency to wander. Just what was Michael doing for the last 20 years? Did he a have a job? That mask looks remarkably fresh considering every Halloween mask I ever bought fell to pieces after a day. Did he buy a stock of blue overalls?

Despite it being only 3 years since the last instalment, it feels like a heck of a lot more. “Scream” and “Scream 2” had been released in the meantime, and despite H20 pretty much ignoring their skewering of horror film rules – yes, someone dies after saying “I’ll be right back”, and the teenagers who have sex are goners – it feels a couple of decades more modern than “The Curse Of Michael Myers”. Also, the teen film was big business again, so this movie has a virtual A-list cast, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe in her first role, Michelle Williams and Josh Hartnett.

“Halloween H20” also follows the tradition of horror franchises which ignore previous movies in the series. In this universe, Halloween 4, 5 and 6 never happened, and Laurie Strode never had a daughter. She faked her own death in order to get away from Michael, then rather implausibly managed to get a job as the headmistress of an exclusive private school in California, having a son in the process who by 1998 is Josh Hartnett. Did they not do a background check? Michael, after…I don’t know, being a roadie for a metal band for 20 years?…decides that his sister is alive and pops back to Illinois to murder Dr. Loomis’ nurse on the off chance she has some information about Laurie. Joseph Gordon Levitt, as a local skateboard kid, doesn’t even make it as far as the opening credits.

Let’s get all the sad Pleasence information out of the way. He died in 1995, so his sole involvement in this is as a photograph and a map, showing all the different places he went looking for Michael – they do reuse one of his speeches from the first movie, but for reasons unknown get another actor to speak the lines. Given the last time we saw Michael in this universe was when the two of them got blown up at the end of part 2, and the camera lingered over his burning corpse while the credits played, both he and Loomis recovered remarkably well.

Halloween H20 Kenny

So, private school, most of the students and faculty are off on a camping trip, leaving four sexy teens, Curtis, her boyfriend Adam Arkin the guidance counsellor, and LL Cool J the security guard. He’s my favourite character, with his quirk being he’s a wannabe erotic fiction writer, spending most of his onscreen time reading his stories out to his wife. Ten years later and he could have been the next EL James! Michael makes his way from Illinois to California remarkably quickly (he’d need to drive the speed limit the entire way and never stop if he wanted to make it in under two days), uses some stealth-ninja powers to get into the school, and we’re on for some carnage.

This is by a comfortable distance the best of the series since the first one (although I do love how bonkers part 4 is). The cast is great, it’s had plenty of money spent on it and Jamie Lee Curtis is still the ultimate Final Girl, even if she’s no longer a girl. The fact it’s slickly made does tend to hide some of the problems it has, though. Michael doesn’t kill anyone between the opening credits and almost an hour into the movie, and that section – while not terrible – is a heck of a lot of setup for not a lot of payoff (the bodycount is at Halloween 1 levels). It feels like they were almost going to go a different way before bringing Michael back again, and I’d lay money on Adam Arkin being the killer in an early draft of the script, because Curtis mistakes him for Michael three times in the course of the movie – once I’ll buy as a red herring, but three times and you’re in different territory.

There’s plenty of that “people being dumb to ensure Michael has someone to kill” stuff going on, but that’s par for the course for slasher movies. It would have been nice to have someone ponder why he’s effectively indestructible, but the film just ignores all that stuff and expects you to know who everyone is and what they can do. Not a terrible idea, I suppose. The music is generic thriller-music, all soaring strings, and the only showing for the classic Halloween theme is as the credits roll – if you’re going to do a Halloween, have some decent music please.

Halloween-H20_18_10_EmilyB

It shows its post-Scream creation by being thick with references to other horror films – before the opening credits, there are little nods to “Friday The 13th” and “Hellraiser”; producer Kevin Williamson had a hand in “Scream”; and director Steve Miner is a horror stalwart, getting his start on the original “Last House On The Left” and directing a few of the Friday 13th sequels. Janet Leigh, as the school secretary, drives the exact same make and model of car, with the same number plate, she was driving in “Psycho”.

All in all, it’s well done and fun to watch. Not perfect, but you’ll have a good time with it.

Rating: thumbs up

Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)

Halloween6cover

There was a bit of a tradition back in the 1990s for long-running horror franchises to dispense with the numbering, as if making a “part 6” was a bit embarrassing. You got “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare”, “Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday” (neither of which were the final films in their respective series, by the way), and every “Hellraiser” and “Child’s Play” film past part 3.

There are two things about this film that might be interesting to the modern viewer. First up is the “introducing and starring” credit for one Paul Rudd, future A-lister, but more on him later. Second is the rather bizarre production this film had. Planned for the year after part 5, the poor performance of that film and all sorts of legal troubles meant they didn’t go back to the series til 1995. Donald Pleasance had aged a heck of a lot in the last six years and sadly died after principal photography had ended: but the original cut tested very badly, and due to the feuding groups who had a financial stake in it, reshoots were required, which involved some hasty reworking of the plot to remove him. And I mean hasty!

Michael Myers, it turns out, is the recipient of a curse, the “Mark of Thorn”. There are druids, and the “Thorn” rune, and a child is chosen from each tribe to carry the curse, and they had to kill their blood relatives on Samhain in order to stop a demon from spreading sickness and causing destruction. The mark also, apparently, makes the killer indestructible, for no reason whatsoever. That it takes Michael nearly 20 years to get down to the last member of his family and the demon has spread no sickness or destruction might just indicate to the druids that they’re wasting their time, but such questions are never asked.

halloween-6-new-transfer-620x400

At the end of part 5, Michael is kidnapped from a police station by a mysterious Man in Black, who blows it up and kills everyone inside (he doesn’t appear to have any supernatural abilities, so how he did it is another question left unanswered. Also best left unanswered is why they didn’t help him get out of the asylum where he’s locked up in part 1, or the hospital in part 4). Jamie is kidnapped too, and when she’s 15, it’s implied but not shown that Michael rapes her and she gives birth to his child. When we meet her at the beginning of part 6, she’s managed to escape from the weird cave / hospital base that the cult is operating out of, and Michael, needing to kill her in order to…get rid of the curse, become mortal and die in excruciating agony from his previous injuries?…gets to chasing. Also, if he’s got to kill his family, creating new ones would seem to be a bit counter-productive.

Paul Rudd is Tommy, one of the kids that Laurie was babysitting in part 1. He is me in my early 20s, only a great deal more attractive – posters for obscure bands and arthouse movies, hipster fridge magnets, moody expression, and so on. He’s living in a boarding house across the road from the old Myers home, waiting for Michael to come back, and…I feel the more I unpack this film, the crazier it gets. It’s like zooming in on a fractal image and only seeing more layers of complexity, but in this case it just keeps on getting stupider the more you look at it.

I think one more example of how oddly this film gets going, though. Jamie runs to a bus station, trailing blood from the phone booth to the bathroom, and leaves her child in a cupboard while she nips off to get brutally murdered by Michael in the grand tradition of “final girl from the previous movie dies in the first half hour of the new one”. Tommy, analysing the phone call she made to the local radio station (there are no police in this film, at all) figures out where she went and goes there the next day. Despite it being busy, no-one’s cleaned the trail of blood up, and evidently the toilet wasn’t used as he discovers the baby where she left it.

Halloween6screen1

The Strode family has moved into Michael’s old house, and apart from providing cannon fodder and acting work for the mum from “Better Off Dead”, one of my all-time favourite films, it gives us Kara and her eight-year-old son Danny, who may well be the next recipient of the curse. They meet up with Tommy and together with Dr Loomis they try and stop Michael, one last time.

The final release version of this is so thoroughly awful that I’m genuinely amazed that anyone thought it was okay to put out. I just can’t fathom it. They keep trying to remind you of part 1 and how good it was, but all it actually makes you think is “I wish I was watching part 1 again”. The last half hour is really just a random selection of scenes which bear only the faintest relation to each other, but you’ll no doubt ponder on just what Michael’s relationship with the rest of the cult is, and why none of them are also indestructible, immortal killing machines. You’ll wonder why he’s developed a taste for impaling people on stuff and twisting people’s necks, as he does both a lot. You’ll realise that most film writers, directors and producers are talentless chancers who just have more money and connections than normal people like you or I.

Sorry kids, but SPOILERS. I need for the sake of my own sanity to unpack the ending, and knowing how it ends will only make the rest of the film more bizarre, should you choose to watch it later. After the ludicrous reveals of who’s in the cult, Michael (for reasons which are at best faintly implied, and at worst left out) gets annoyed at how they’ve treated him and slaughters them all, but he still wants to kill the rest of his family too. He is finally put down by having multiple injections of some corrosive substance and getting battered with a steel pipe by Tommy, and when green slime starts oozing out of his mask, it looks like Michael is finally done for. Unless you’ve ever seen a film, of course. Tommy, Kara and Danny are about to drive off, rather than do anything silly like wait for the police, when Dr Loomis tells them he has unfinished business inside. The last shot of the last film of Donald Pleasence’s career is of Michael’s mask, laid on the floor where his body was, and Loomis’ scream dubbed in from the end of part 4, cut to black, “In Memory of Donald Pleasence”. Oh my god!


images

There’s a “producer’s cut” of this film, which was originally just sold as a bootleg at horror conventions but has finally been cleared up and released in the official blu-ray box set. Hilariously, it sounds even stupider, with a black magic ending that keeps Donald Pleasence in the series, and having Jamie survive her initial attack from Michael.

It’s so strange that I can’t hate it as much as I hate part 5. The “huh, I guess we were drugged” scene is one of the most bizarre non sequiturs in film history, and there’s a rich bounty for the bad movie enthusiast. I do like that they don’t spend much time trying to kill Michael, as there’s not a lot of tension in that, although we’re two years away from “Scream” and the self-aware slasher villains. There’s not a single scene in this that manages to hold up to the slightest scrutiny, and for that it ought to be…well, what’s one step above “ignored forever”?

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

halloween-5-poster-danielle-harris

Wow, the Haddonfield police are one of the dumbest groups of people in film history. They filled Michael Myers full of holes in part 4, and he fell into a well, or a mineshaft, or something. The police basically just shone their torch down the hole where Michael had fallen and went “well, he’s probably dead down there, let’s call it a night, shall we?” This amazingly isn’t the dumbest thing they do during the course of this film.

Of course, ol’ Michael takes a kickin’ and keeps on tickin’. After being shot a bunch, he falls down the shaft, but luckily there’s a tunnel that leads to a nearby river at the bottom. He goes for a bit of a swim down-river, and fortunately happens upon a hermit’s shack. He collapses, the hermit decides to just look after him (friendly hermit), until Halloween the next year when Michael bashes the guy’s head in and goes back to Haddonfield to finish his work off, whatever it’s supposed to be at this point.

I think there ought to be a new way to judge slasher films. It’s not so much if they’re any good or not – most of them are absolute garbage – but on how cleverly they set up the pieces for the next sequel. As you may have noticed with the treatment of Michael, this one just goes “ah, who cares?” Perhaps it’s not the sort of thing you’d notice if you watched them a year apart, but watching them all over the course of a week, certain things pop out, and apart from MM, it’s mainly to do with Jamie (Danielle Harris).

halloween-5-dr-loomis-burned-face

It’s obvious at the end of part 4 that she killed her foster mother. Both the actress and Donald Pleasence wanted her to be the villain in part 5, or at least Michael’s sidekick, but what actually happens is there’s a spot of retconning – she only moderately wounded the woman, who is now referred to as her step-mother; and she’s been sent to a childrens’ psychiatric hospital. Rachel and friends from the last film gather round to try and cheer her up at the beginning of the movie, which is nice BUT SHE TRIED TO KILL HER MOTHER! Dr Loomis, who was inches away from shooting her at the end of part 4, is now her best friend; and, of course, the parents aren’t around, having gone on a camping trip. Why bother sticking around at the most traumatic time of the year for your children? It’s not so much the retconning itself, more they had an opportunity to do something interesting with the franchise and decided to go back to the lame safeness of the indestructible Michael.

Donald Pleasance is a mainstay of the franchise, only leaving it when he died, most of the way through filming part 6. He’s fully in scenery-chewing territory here, either being given weird direction or having some competition with himself to see what’s the craziest line reading he could slip into the final film. He also looks a lot older than he did in part 4, shot the previous year, which indicates he was already a little ill by this point. The sole interesting part of this film is strong indication that Loomis is just as crazy as Michael is, but it’s a tiny oasis in a desert of idiocy.

You don’t really need me to incredulously recap the rest of the stupidity in this one. I could talk about the two cops who refer to themselves as “lousy” and even have their own comic relief-style theme music; the boyfriend, beamed in from the 1950s; the psychic link that Jamie and Michael share – we all know that Uncle-Niece bond is the strongest of all; how Jamie has weird fits every time Michael kills someone, except when the film forgets and she doesn’t; the endless bullshit jump-scares; the way that people dressing as Michael Myers for a joke have been directly responsible for a lot of deaths in these movies; why the movie is called “The Revenge Of…” when he’s a damn mass murderer who’s got no-one to take “revenge” on; and, finally, why Michael is after this group of teenagers, who have no relationship whatsoever to him or his family.

I’ll leave you with a little more cop stupidity, though. Loomis sets up a trap for Myers at his old house, and the police finally realise he’s not dead so are out in force. Firstly, they don’t bother checking the attic of the house, or wondering why it’s lit up (yes, “someone” is already up there), and secondly, when the kid has a psychic vision of where the killer is, they all drive off, leaving one idiot and a sheriff’s deputy to protect Jamie and Loomis.

Anyway, it’s the dumbest Halloween film probably of ‘em all (although I’m really not looking forward to Halloween Resurrection). Its cliffhanger ending is at least different, even if it’s really stupid (knowing what I know about the mysterious man in black who drifts through this film, it would be difficult to be more stupid).

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween4poster

“Both of them nearly burned to death”.

I want you to keep that line in mind when you watch the ending of “Halloween 2”. The room that Michael Myers and Dr Loomis are in EXPLODES. Loomis never leaves, and the last we see of Michael is him staggering out of the room, on fire, then collapsing, and the end credits playing over a shot of his burning corpse.

But that’s not all. The first ten minutes of this film is when it – and the series – stops attempting the remotest link to reality and just becomes a consequence-free slash-fest. For no reason whatsoever, Michael Myers, still alive, is due to be transferred from the hospital basement he’s been left in for the last ten years, and of course the only time they can possibly do it is the rainy night of the 30th of October. Oh, and Dr Loomis is still his doctor, for even less reason – he’s already shot him twice. When Myers, travelling in the ambulance, sticks his thumb through the skull of one of the paramedics, all bets are off! I can sense you asking questions, but don’t. Relax and enjoy.

The film, amazingly, isn’t done piling on the “boy, we ought to have hired a better scriptwriter or director for this” fun. Jamie Lee Curtis had the good sense to not come back for part 4, so her character Laurie Strode apparently died at some point in the last ten years. Before she did, she had the time to get married and have a kid, called Jamie, who looks 10 years old or so by the time of this one (so it must have happened pretty quickly after the trauma of having her brother kill dozens of people trying to get to her). But we’re still not done! All Laurie’s family are dead, so the poor kid is put into foster care. The only town they could possibly find with a willing foster family? Haddonfield, the site of the mass murders committed by her Uncle!

4

Michael luckily finds a mechanic to kill and steal some overalls from, so he can keep the same look he had in the first two films; also luckily, those white William Shatner masks are now big business thanks to his exploits a decade ago, so he grabs another one. Loomis, his only visible injury being a bit of a scar on his cheek, pursues Michael back to Haddonfield, and it’s on for another Halloween night of slaughter.

Even if you can accept all this, the film has a bit more for you! For some completely unknown reason, the two paramedics mention in Michael’s presence that he has a niece, and they know where she lives, which activates his family-killing superpowers. Also, would you know where the power station that supplied your town was? It’s not the sort of thing that gets advertised, but Michael finds it immediately and blows it up, which combined with long-distance phone lines being down, isolates Haddonfield from the rest of the world. What a mastermind Myers is!

Of course, we need some teenagers to be cannon fodder, and this film has Rachel, Jamie’s much older foster-sister. She does normal teenager stuff, but her treatment is so appallingly sexist that it’s like they’re going for some sort of “Anti-Feminism In Cinema” Award. During a car ride near the beginning, she and her friend (supposedly the same character that Laurie baby-sat in part 1, fact fans) are discussing boys, and they end with “don’t be too pushy, boys don’t like that”. At the end, Rachel’s almost-boyfriend has slept with another woman, and she tells Rachel that if she doesn’t understand what boys really want, he won’t be the last boyfriend she loses to a girl like her. Wow! The film gives zero indication that these statements are wrong, and it’s not like either of them really play into the plot at all, so it feels like someone with a very skewed perspective on relationships crowbarred these parts in.

Amazingly, after all this, the film itself is rather good. If you take the first ten minutes as a “well, the producers want a film, here’s the least stupid way we can resurrect the killer and his only antagonist who’s prepared to come back” and the ending as “holy crap did we have to go that dark?”, then the film itself is a tight and decent enough thriller. If you ignore the rotten sexual politics, then Rachel is a smart and resourceful heroine who behaves in ways you don’t normally get from slasher ladies, and apart from a weird 20 minute lull (where the only two cops left in town lock themselves in a house and wait for Myers to show up) it keeps up the pace, and Pleasence is always good to watch.

halloween4tops

Myers gets his first kill which I’d call “playful” (well, my wife coined the phrase) where he pretends to be the cop sat in the dark who he just killed. It’s way out of place for the implacable force of evil which the film wishes it had the brains to portray him as, but it’s quite good fun. The kids at Jamie’s school are legitimately horrible like kids actually are in real life, but sadly Myers doesn’t kill any of them.

So, streets ahead of part 3, and more fun to watch than part 2. We’ve got some fun ahead of us, ISCFC readers. There’s a couple more films left in the “original” run, then there’s part 7 which retcons parts 4-6 out of existence and a part 8 with Busta Rhymes in it. YES! Then there’s fan films and two Rob Zombie reboot films…we’ll still be reviewing Halloween movies next October 31st.

Rating: thumbs up

PS. Perhaps an example of how lazy these sequels had gotten is the fetishisation of hiding Michael’s face. He’s got full-face bandages the only time we see him without his mask on, and a later film in the series made a point in its advertising of “Michael Myers unmasked!” This ignored the fact that in part 1 – the only really good one, the horror classic that everyone will remember long after the sequels are dust – you see his face, clearly. It’s just not important, until you become desperate to make a few more dollars any way you can.

Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch (1982)

Halloween_III__Season_of_the_Witch_6349

This is a strange film with a great story behind it. John Carpenter and Debra Hill, writer / producers were quite bored by the Halloween series by this point, and decided that rather than resurrect Michael Myers again, they’d turn the Halloween films into an anthology series. So, every year you’d get a different scary movie based around some Halloween myth or legend, and hopefully things would tick over nicely for many years. That this is the only one, and Halloween 4 was right back with good old indestructible MM, will tell you all you need to know about how successful their plan was. But the question we’re going to answer is – was the failure of Halloween 3 to do with it deviating from the slasher template, or to do with it being a terrible movie?

Before we even swing a bat for the first time, the title gives us two hefty mistakes. If you’re going to turn this into an anthology, don’t number it as if it’s a sequel to the last one; and if you’re going to call it “Season of the Witch”, PUT SOME DAMN WITCHES IN IT

You’ve almost certainly heard of the plot, if you’re reading this site. The Silver Shamrock Novelty company has made a bunch of masks, each of which imbued with a tiny fragment of Stonehenge. When a certain advert is played on TV, the masks activate then a bunch of worms and bugs devour the face of the person wearing the mask, then the person gets replaced with a robot, I think, as the villain also has a robot factory. One might ask “why does a toy manufacturer want to turn all the kids in the world into robots?” but you would not receive an answer from the film itself. How does a company which makes three rubbish looking masks have such an extraordinary market penetration? No, down that path is madness.

HalloweenIII-StopId

There’s a bereaved woman, a local cop, and a town which seems under the thrall of the toy company, and they, in true “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” style, try to save the day. The sad thing is, I’d agree with the tone of the film. It’s got a strong anti-corporate message, which becomes more prescient with every passing year, when toys and worthless junk for the next big holiday appear on supermarket shelves earlier and earlier. But the good thing about being a progressive, a leftie, call it what you will, is that I don’t have to like things just because they agree with the way I see the world.

This film was originally written by Nigel Kneale, the British writer who gave us “Quatermass”, one of the all-time great speculative fiction series. Unfortunately, when the studio and director had finished with his script, what might have been a genuinely fascinating story was turned into a boring, stupid film with a ridiculous plot, some of the cheesiest scenes I can think of (the guided tour of the evil factory, for one) and one of those awful nihilistic endings that comes into fashion every now and again.

Is there anyone who thinks this is bad, or badly reviewed, because of the lack of Michael Myers? Get ready for my reviews of the later films in the series if you think that’s the case. This is a curious film, because it seems to have got something of a following in these internet-filled times. Every now and again, two or three people who love this film will find each other and create a loud piercing noise that drowns out all the sensible people who say “yes, this film is absolutely terrible”, and a passerby, like me for example the first time I watched this film, will think “perhaps it’s not that bad” and give it a try. Please do not be one of those people. Because it started drifting into “worst films of all time” lists in the 90s and 00s, some people just got desperate to the one who rediscovered it, I guess.

halloween3_buddyTV

It’s probably not the worst film ever made, but it’s really pretty terrible. It’s either sleazy (the cop’s relationship with the leading lady, for one), stupid or boring, or a combination of the three.

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween 2 (1981)

HalloweenII_poster

Well…mostly new

This film is the beginning of the end. As far as I can gather, it’s the first sequel to a slasher film – a few other “horror” franchises had sequels before this, but they weren’t slashers, and this sets the template. The killer is now effectively indestructible, unstoppable and his motives become more and more hazy, to the point where it becomes “Slasher Film 7 – Just Point Me At The Teenagers”.

It starts the second the first film ends. The police finally get onto the streets of Haddonfield in force, and take Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to the hospital. Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence, showing remarkable loyalty to this series) is sure that Myers is out there, and even carries on believing it when someone dressed identically to Myers is trapped between two cars and blown up. “Before they were famous” fans will enjoy seeing future SNL and “Wayne’s World” star Dana Carvey as one of the TV news crew people.

He's on the left

He’s on the left

The interesting things about this movie are things that its imitators didn’t do. A significant amount of this film is about the aftermath of the first one and how the characters deal with it, which is a thing most horror films don’t give a damn about. We see the father of one of the girls murdered in part 1, we see the people at the local hospital discussing the radio news reports, and we get a flavour of how a small town which has this happen would react. But it does also have an unstoppable mask-wearing force of evil, and he makes his way to the hospital, doing a few more killings along the way and stopping off at his former infant school to write “Samhain” in blood on a chalkboard.

We also appear to have the originator of the poorly lit hospital trope which I’ve railed against so many times. Initially, the hospital is brightly lit, and you’re like “finally, a horror film where I can see what’s going on” until about halfway through, when all the lights seem to be on a dimmer. Dammit! What we also have, that the first film had none of, is the fakeout scare – a cat jumping out of a rubbish bin, a boyfriend pretending to be a patient under a blanket, that sort of thing.

John Carpenter wrote the second one, even though one gets the sense he didn’t really want to, and couldn’t think of a sensible plot – hence the “twist”, which is never so much as hinted at in the film before it. Also, for all his great films, he’s made a lot more than his fair share of garbage, so maybe this is from the “minus” side of his resume. The director of part 2, Rick Rosenthal, has zero other credits worth a damn and has been a TV director for the last 20 years, but he does a decent enough job of aping Carpenter’s visual style from part 1 – it looks similar enough that if you compared a few scenes, you’d probably not be able to tell who did what.

halloween_ii_A

You have to laugh. Myers makes his way through the hospital, thinking of interesting ways to kill people (drowning someone in a boiling hot tub is my favourite) and there’s never a bit of doubt that he’ll make it through everyone in his way up to Laurie and Dr. Loomis. It gets so silly towards the end that comedy must have been what they were going for – well, I hope, anyway. There’s one hilarious death where Myers has drained all the blood from one of his victims, and someone happens upon the scene later, slips in the blood, bangs their head and dies. Brilliant! It’s when you discover that Myers has slashed the tyres and damaged the engines of every single car in the parking lot that you think “okay, I don’t have to worry about taking this seriously now”.

What this film isn’t is particularly scary, because there’s no real tension to it – when someone is shot in the eyes twice but doesn’t stop coming, it’s tough to keep tension; but it does have quite a bit more gore. I’ll leave you with a quote from Splatter Movies, by John McCarty, written around the time. “[They] aim not to scare their audiences, necessarily, nor to drive them to the edge of their seats in suspense, but to mortify them with scenes of explicit gore. In splatter movies, mutilation is indeed the message, many times the only one.”

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween (1978)

Halloween_cover

Books have been written about this film – serious, scholarly works that go in depth into John Carpenter, every shot, the film’s view of society, all that sort of thing. The geniuses at Red Letter Media have just released a commentary for this, too (the thing that inspired me to rewatch it) which is full of trivia, comedy, and analysis. Chances are you’ve already seen it. So why should you read this?

I don’t know. It’s not like I’m the first – or the hundredth, or the thousandth – low-rent film blogger to have a go at this either. Unless you’re one of the three friends of mine who reads this site regularly, these words will disappear into the ether. But, you might be about to watch this film for the first time and your Google search is broken for the first ten pages. Who knows? Also, I’m going to be reviewing the entire series, and I don’t think there are too many sites who’ve made it as far as part 6, with Paul Rudd, or that one with Busta Rhymes in it, where the house was covered in webcams (part 8, a quick search tells me).

The first thing you’ll notice is how this doesn’t look anything like the legion of films which followed in its footsteps (not just the sequels, but the other slasher franchises). It’s full of long, slow shots, panning across empty suburbia. The music and the colours (which make it look like a cold Midwest Halloween, but was actually filmed in California, the autumn leaves being a prop) set up a feeling of dread better than “generic metal soundtrack X” and a few jumpcuts could ever hope to do. The main house used in the film wasn’t a prop, but a real dilapidated home they found and were able to film in.

halloween-at-a-distance-preview1

The plot is simple. Young Michael Myers kills his elder sister on Halloween and is sent to an insane asylum. 15 years later he escapes, heads back to his old town and decides to kill babysitters, focusing on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). There’s no explanation, no more backstory than is absolutely necessary, and no understanding. He’s just a force. Chasing him down is Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance)…and that’s it.

Does anyone really care about backstory? Was Hannibal Lecter more frightening when we knew nothing about him, or after “Hannibal Rising” when we’d got his entire life story in boring, excruciating detail? Is Michael Myers more scary or less after we’ve been told all about his life both in the sequels and the 2007 “remake”? Prequels, backstory…it’s all bunk, to squeeze money out of characters that we like because we know nothing about them. “Halloween” works partly because of what it doesn’t tell us.

It’s difficult to have a personal reaction to such a famous film. Even if you’ve not seen it before, you’ll recognise plenty of the scenes from being lifted for other, lesser horror films or from the many parodies. But it provides moments that still can give you the chills. Seeing Michael across the street, just in the middle of a normal suburban day, no loud music or jump-scares, is still a great moment. It doesn’t follow “the rules”, either, for instance Michael is unmasked at one point, and it’s not a big deal – an absolute no-no in the prop fetishisation world of 80s and 90s horror. There’s barely any death, and what there is is incredibly tame. A few frames of nudity. There’s just atmosphere.

halloween2

Really, you don’t need me to tell you about this film. It’s a classic, forever enshrined in the pantheon of great horror cinema. It’s not perfect (s-l-o-w pace, even when it doesn’t need to be, Dr Loomis spends half the film stood next to a bush) but the way it works, while the sequels get progressively stupider, is testament to its quality. We’ll be reviewing the series, and as I recall I quite enjoyed a few of the later ones.

Rating: thumbs up (obviously)